The Great American Melting Pot by katy reilly

Chinese-Irish-Puerto Rican-American

¿Hablas Español?

In my elementary school, we had a huge garden. I remember one day we picked vegetables from the garden and made our very own salad wraps. I put edible flowers in mine. The teachers encouraged me to learn and recommended thick, interesting books for me to read. I went to art clubs and a cupcake club. But then I went to middle school. In 6th grade, you still ‘belong’ to the elementary school you went to. Whenever someone asked which elementary school I went to, I told the truth- MAS. A boy once said to me, Oh, you went to the ghetto school. I didn’t know what he meant. My school was diverse and full of different cultures. Did that make us ghetto? A lot of the students in my school were Hispanic, including me. Once, a woman came up to me frantically speaking Spanish. I simply stared at her blankly. Soon she figured out I couldn't speak Spanish and asked another girl, but I felt guilty that I couldn’t help her. I’m a quarter Puerto-Rican, but back then I couldn’t speak a word of Spanish. I didn’t know mostly white kids went to the other schools; I thought the ratio was similar to MAS. In Hommocks, Hispanics were a minority, heynot the majority. It was so different. But at least in Hommocks I learned Spanish.

Respect

The 2016 Presidential Election was only in its beginning stages in early 2016. I was in 8th grade at the time, a profound feminist and Democrat. I wasn't ashamed and had many friends who had my back. One of my allies, Caitlin, was in my social studies class. She agreed with me on almost everything politically. A boy was in my class too- a Republican, my perfect opposite. We disagreed on almost everything. And it was usually 2 against 1. He held a strong argument though, no doubt. My social studies teacher could only sit back and watch the heated debates. He encouraged them even. We argued about all different things. Health care, abortion, women’s rights, the gender wage gap, irrational Trump, ‘crooked’ Hillary. Once, we spent 2 days arguing about the wage gap. I spent the night researching statistics and articles that proved the wage gap was real. The next day, he presented me with his own articles and research that proved the gender wage gap simply doesn’t exist. I didn’t agree with a single word that came out of his mouth that day, but I did gain respect for him. He worked hard to prove what he believes in, just like I had. I don’t think I’ll ever like or agree with him, but at least there is a mutual respect.

Fairy Tale

ONCE UPON A TIME there were nine beautiful princesses. The princesses lived in a beautiful kingdom near the ocean. One day, a stunning queen arrived from the richest kingdom in all the land. All of the princesses were entranced by her beauty and charm. The eldest became great friends with their new visitor. One day, two of the princesses found the two friends secretively whispering in their room. Eventually, these princesses began to despise their seemingly perfect guest. She was stealing their sisters away from them, and she was cruel to the sister’s who didn’t worship at her feet. After the four of the sisters had been consumed with love for the beautiful queen, only five were left to discover the queen's true colors.

The five princesses set out on a quest to reveal what secrets the queen hid. So they traveled to the queen's kingdom to investigate. On their way to the kingdom, they stumbled upon a small, run-down cottage . Tired and hungry from their long journey, they knocked on the door to seek shelter and a hot meal. A tiny old woman answered the door, and beckoned them inside after learning of their royal status. Once they had devoured the stew the woman had prepared for them, they questioned her about the mysterious queen. The queen is a beautiful woman, but has a rotten heart, she said. The queen was once kind and innocent as a young girl, but darkness began to envelop her heart as she grew older. After she married the king, she had turned into a cold, cruel woman. All of her friends resented her power and grew jealous of her beauty. She went to the small kingdom by the ocean to find new friends, but that couldn't change her rotten heart.

Of course, all the princesses were shocked by this news, and couldn't wait to inform their sisters and rid their kingdom of the evil queen. They hurried home to tell their sisters, but upon their return, they realized their kingdom had changed drastically. Their sisters had all been manipulated and poisoned by the queen’s greed for power and her selfishness. The queen had convinced the sisters to start their own new kingdom, filled with the rich and powerful citizens they hoped to woe. But they weren’t keen on finding their own kingdom by the sea- they wanted half of the current kingdom. The 5 sisters would not tolerate that. They organized their own army of citizens who wished to stay in the kingdom the way it was. Meanwhile, the other sisters and the queen recruited rich noblemen as donors and supporters, supplying their slaves as soldiers to fight the impending civil war. The noblemen wished for a new kingdom, for the queen was promising many perks for the rich who came to live in their new kingdom.

War was upon them. They fought in the valleys near the river, in the forests at the top of the mountains, and on the beaches, blood turning the sea red. At their final battle, it seemed the queen would win. The 5 sisters were desperate and heartbroken for their fate. But one sent a messenger to the old woman in the woods. They hoped she could help them like she had before. The old woman came, and as they stood on opposites sides of the battlefield, the small, frail matron stood eye to eye with the queen.

“Ha! You think a weak old woman can stop me from taking this land? I have underestimated your naïveté!” The queen cackled.

Then, the old woman glanced softly back at the girls before whispering gently into the queens ear. The queen turned stark white, all the blush draining out of her cheeks. The queen turned to her comrades and with a flick of her wrist, they retreated into the hills. The 5 sisters will never learn what the old woman said, but they know it scared the queen enough that she never bothered them again. She still began a new kingdom, but it was smaller, and after time it crumbled.

I

Among twenty golden trees,

The only sound beside the breeze

Was the clicking shutter of the camera.

II

I was of three shots,

Like a camera

That has taken the three shots

III

The camera sat among the disarray of the desk.

It was but a small part of the confusion.

IV

A man and a woman

Are one.

A man and a woman and a camera

Are one.

V

I do not know which to prefer,

The beauty of the living

Or the beauty of azoic,

the subject ready for the shot,

or faltering just after.

VI

The floor is bathed with sunlight

shining through the long window.

The shadow of the girl

Breaks it, pacing back and forth.

VII

O analytical men of academia,

Why do you invalidate the art the camera creates?

Do you not see how the camera

Illustrates the beauty

Of the women about you?

VIII

I know noble superiority

And plain, humble souls;

I know, too,

That the camera can capture

All that I know.

IX

When the camera shutter clicks,

It crops the endless

Inescapable reality

Into a modest rectangle.

X

At the sight of a camera

Draped around her neck,

Even the oafs of abhorrence

Would perform a pompous display of affection.

XI

He rode through Manhattan

In a bright yellow chariot.

Then, a great joy overcame him,

In that he mistook

The lowly transistors shop

for a camera boutique.

XII

The snow is falling.

The camera must be clicking.

XIII

It was aphotic all afternoon.

It was foggy

And it was going to be foggy.

The camera sat

Tranquil among the darkness.

This is 14

Fourteen is the the Times Square of life. Throes of people beckoning you, like all the temptations that come with your teenage years. Bright lights, so many things happening at once, it’s noisy, it’s busy, and for many native New Yorkers, it’s their least favorite spot in Manhattan- for obvious reasons. At fourteen, you still

don’t really know what kind of person you are. Physically you may have matured, but mentally, you still have years to go to evolve. You’re at that age where you want to be independent, you want to be an individual, yet you’re still eternally tied and relying on your parents. Old enough to walk home alone, but not old enough to drive a car. Old enough to go to a party, but not old enough to drink. You’re on the brink of independence, so close, yet so far. You want to use every moment of this time- you’ll never be this age again, so don’t squander it. You are prepared and have set off on your journey to adulthood.

Fourteen is spending late nights at a friend’s house on a weeknight, just because ‘you have to study for a test,’ when really, you simply enjoy each other’s company while analyzing the point in which anaphase occurs during mitosis. The stress of school and the next four years is bearing down on you, but you still have time to be that energetic middle school kid you were only a year ago.

Fourteen is when every day is a new challenge, whether socially or academically.

At 14, you think extensively every morning about what you’re wearing, silently cursing yourself for not doing the laundry the night before. You contemplate wearing sweatpants on a daily basis, but the guilt of wearing cute outfits 4 days a week, then spoiling it with pajamas one day is far too heavy. It’s a good day when you have time to swipe on your favorite mascara, but you’re still not getting out of the house until 7:45. Your favorite outfit is the one that lays bare your skin and accentuates the curves of your body to prove you aren’t a little girl any longer, and the best part of each day is when you get home after walking through the brisk December wind and collapsing on the couch, dreaming of hot ramen with sweet corn and bok choy.

Fourteen is feeling a pit in your stomach when you think about the years ahead, choking when well-meaning family members question you about your plans for college. Holiday dinners are clogged with inquiries about school work and your future plans. Over heaps of creamy mashed potatoes and rich burgundy, glistening ham, you sweat just thinking about touring college campuses, a clingy, enthusiastic mom hanging onto your arm.

It’s hating your thighs and stomach and doing almost everything you can to tone them up. Downloading 3 different calorie counting apps, getting a gym membership, searching up dozens of videos about ‘Healthy Vegan Meals!’ while eating pita chips and watching X-Files on the couch. It’s hitting the gym as often as you can and going easy half the time, then sweating off that fettuccine alfredo you ate for dinner last night. It’s finally looking at your body and being happy, because everyone is beautiful the way they are.

Fourteen is when you realize the little innocence everyone had in 6th grade is gone. Snapchat documents the booming bass, flashing lights, and tipsy teens that fill the house of your local aspiring frat boy. When discussions about Alexander the Great during sixth period Global quickly turn to all the tricks you can do while vaping. When a friend posts a video with the caption, “This was me so high I couldn’t remember my name LMAO!” and you’re shocked, because compared to half the kids in your school, you must be a patron saint. Fourteen is when you are tempted by the cans of beer in some kid’s bathtub, but then you remember when your dad let you have a sip, and it tasted like barley soaked in a refreshing blend of acetone and balsamic vinegar.

Fourteen is when life is just starting to come together, when you’re no longer a child, but not yet an adult. When you’re fourteen, you want to fit in…typically. I prefer to stick to what I like, which may not always be what everyone else is wearing or doing or liking. That’s just me at age 14.

Author's Note

I think each of these pieces contributed something different to the overall story. In each piece, I felt like I learned something new or tried out a new style of writing. While writing my vignettes I learned how to shorten my stories. My whole writing experience so far had been learning how to stretch my stories as far as I could. Shortening them was definitely a new experiment with my writing style. In This is 14, I learned how to write more creatively and I really got to document all the different things I experience at this age. I really enjoyed writing 13 Ways to Look at a Camera, I definitely found my way around thesaurus.com in an attempt to imitate the eloquent writing Wallace Stevens displays. My fairy tale wasn’t my favorite piece, but it helped me practice viewing my modern story from a more ‘medieval' angle. Overall, I really enjoyed this project, and being able to show case some of my own photos was a definite perk of using Adobe Spark.

Credits:

Created with images by Bonio - "Gnome Cottage" • Robynlou8 - "Tiara" • ImageDragon - "autumn leave japan nature" • abigail2resident - "black and white window girl" • Mr B's Photography - "Night Shooting"

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